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Yum! Gallo Pinto!

December 2nd, 2005

Costa Rica is not known for it’s fine cuisine. In general, this is probably a deserved reputation as it tends to be centered around rice, beans, chicken, pork, and beef (tongue especially is very popular here). However, how the above items are combined is within the realm of the cook and that makes all the difference. I find a lot of the cooking here to be really good! Generally, beef here is terrible. I think this is due in part to the lack of vast grazing lands. Also, the concept of aging a steak is not yet part of the Costa Rican culture.

To me, it has always been a wonder why folks move to a foreign country like Costa Rica only to live in residential strongholds of their countrymen and spend all their time at Tony Romas, TGIFridays, etc.

Many never make an attempt to learn the language nor the customs of the new country. I guess they just want to be able to say they live in Costa Rica.

If there is one dish that perhaps represents Costa Rican cuisine more than any other, it has to be Gallo Pinto. Anyone considering a move to Costa Rica should give this dish a try because it will most certainly be in your life here in country!

This simple (sort of) dish contains the requisite rice and beans, but the seasonings and cooking make all the difference. Normally, this is more of a breakfast dish… often served with eggs, a breakfast meat etc., but it is by no means limited to breakfast. In fact, we had it for dinner last night.

I have sampled well over a hundred ‘versions’ of GP since I have lived here. Very few are crummy. Some are ummmm… OK. Others are good… and then there are the really good recipes. My housekeeper Jeanette makes a really good gallo pinto. My wifey makes one that rivals Jeanette’s. This is unusual because Luisa can’t make coffee. This to me is astonishing! A Tica who cannot make coffee. Oh well… she is so great in so many other areas. Also, it is really good to have a new bride who doesn’t speak English nor understand the term blog!

Now to REALLY digress…. ML just woke up and called me back to bed for morning H and K. She asked what I was doing and I told her (which is why she doesn’t have to learn English… duh!). I have tried to explain the concept of the blog, but though she understands my words, I think the concept of publishing ones diary is anathema. Diaries are private. Her’s is… all 57 volumes! Anyway, I asked her how she can make such a fine GP and suck at making coffee, She just laughed and laughed and snuggled closer. Geez I adore this woman. Ten days left.

OK… back to the subject.

The BEST Gallo Pinto though, is made by Kembly, my son’s girlfriend (novia) here in Costa Rica. Kembly can make coffee too, but her GP is special. After annoying her for many months, she finally gave me the recipe which I am adding below for anyone who is interested. In English and in Spanish BTW. Enjoy! Coming to CR? Try your hand at the national dish!

Gallo Pinto


1 cup of cooked rice
1 cup of cooked beans
1 chopped onion (small)
1 small chopped red pepper
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tbs oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro
4 Tbs. Salsa Lizano  (available in our online store) – (can useWorcestershire sauce but don’t expect the same taste!)
Pinch of black pepper
1 tbs seasoning

How to prepare
1. Fry onion, red pepper, garlic, cilantro in the vegetable oil, about 3 minutes.
2. Pour in the beans and add the sauce, black pepper and seasoning. Let it cook for a few minutes, but don’t let it dry out.
3. Pour in the cooked rice and mix it with the beans

Enjoy with:
Sour Cream
Platanos maduros
Eggs (fried or scrambled )

Or in Spanish

Gallo Pinto


1 taza de Arroz cocinado (sencillo reventado)
1 taza de frijoles cocinados con poco caldo (sencillos en el sabor)
1 chile rojo picado
1 cebolla picada fina
2 cdas cilantro picado muy fino
1 cdta aceite
1 cda de ajo
4 cdas de Salsa Lizano (available in our online store)
2 pizca de pimienta negra
1 cubito


1- Se sofrien en el aceite la cebolla, el chile, el culantro, ajo.
2- Cuando están muy crujientes se les agrega los frijoles cocidos y la salsa lizano, pimienta negra y cubito.
3- Se agrega el arroz y se frien un poco todos juntos para mezclar sabores.
4- Se dejan un momento en reposo , luego se mueve con un cucharon los ingredientes para que se mezclen.

Se puede acompañar con Natilla
Platanos maduros
Huevos fritos o revueltos

69 Responses to “Yum! Gallo Pinto!”

  1. Wayne Gunn on June 20, 2010 5:09 pm

    Thanks for the recipe, and a source for the Lizano Salsa.

    I too was disappointed with beef in Costa Rica, since my notion was that grass fed meant “great” and corn fed was an adaptation of typical synthetic American Food, where every product on the shelf has corn in it in some form. Plus the cattle aren’t just fed corn, there are the unmentionable animal parts these poor vegetarian cows are fed, plus hormones like the ones that give women breast cancer and what else? Now I’ve learned from your blog about the left and right sides of the cow, burnt out dairy cows, and breed differences. I did suspect the cattle’s diet of tropical grass vs. northern grass had something to do with it.

    However, the best beef hands down was in Croatia. In 2001, we got in late to a B&B near Plitvice Lakes National Park, recommended by a Croat friend. They had one thing on the menu, Beef and French Fries. We usually split meals and these portions were gigantic. We got one each and ate everything. The beef was so flavorful and tender, it was an experience I had never had before or after. I figured we’d be awake all night after eating that mountain of pomme frites and “kilo” of beef each, right before bed, but we slept like babies and didn’t feel “stuffed” like after pretty much every US restaurant meal. I think the hormones and pesticides may be part of the problem, not to mention the cannibalistic feed. Now I eat beef once a month or less for health concerns, since I have always lived in the US and grew up on it in the Midwest. Anyway, no Costa Rica beef came close to this Croatian beef. Disclaimer- maybe they just called it beef and it was wild caught who-knows-what? But it wasn’t gamey, it was mild but very flavorful…. I just don’t have the words. Now my curiosity is spurred, and I will have to try Hearst Ranch grass-fed beef, grown on the grounds around the Hearst Castle State Park in California. Even though it is 5 times more expensive than the grocery ( but less than a steak house), being a near-vegetarian it will come in much cheaper in the long run and healthier too.

    We found this gallo pinto blog because we had GP this morning for breakfast and it is our favorite when we visit Costa Rica. The reason we happened to have rice and beans was we went to a Cuba Restaurant in Orange, CA 2 days ago and the portions were huge. We got 8 total meals out of it!, from the 2 $12 meals we ordered, which included a pile of rice and a quart of black beans. But it was bland Cuban style, and needed to be spiced up to Costa Rican standards (that is a joke, but it is true!).

  2. will on September 15, 2010 9:34 am

    What kind of rice? (white, brown, etc.)

    Canned beans? Or dry?

    Chicken or Beef Bullion cube? (and do you use the whole cube? those little things pack a wallop.)

  3. Costa Rica's Most traditional and typical dish - Gallo Pinto | The Travel Expert(a) on June 7, 2011 3:53 pm

    […] adds some bacon to their mix. Find the Joy in Each Moment uses butter as the base for cooking. The REAL Costa Rico Blog gives you the recipe in English and Spanish. The BackPacker uses chicken broth rather than the […]

  4. Jessica on July 20, 2011 6:56 pm

    Thank you for this recipe! This was the first time I made gallo pinto for my Tico husband and he ate it all up! I think we’ll use a little less Salsa Lizano next time, but other than that, it was great! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Bringing Costa Rica home « Liz White on August 17, 2011 7:01 pm

    […] we cooked up so gallo pinto, Costa Rican style. Fortunately we still had some Salsa Lisano left over. After tonight we need […]

  6. Janet on August 22, 2011 4:11 pm

    Such fun to read about GP. My son married a beautiful Costa Rican woman. I visited them three times to see Grand Daughter. Yes, GP was my very favorite. Now This little family lives close to me in Seattle, WA. I make GP daily for the 2 year old. It is her favorite food. Since eating this daily, my 67 year old digestive system is in perfect working order!

    I do add Tabasco,’s Chipotle pepper sauce before eating. Have been creative; added it to a bed of spinach, with sliced avocado, red onion and tomato to make a wonderful salad.

    By the way, I get Salsa Lizano at the Latin Store in Pike’s Place Market, Seattle.
    Also, your recipe is what I use, but no black pepper.

    Happiness is GP

  7. Janet on August 23, 2011 10:54 am

    this is good to go. we just ate gallo pinto breakfast

  8. Rice and Beans: Stop Disrespecting ‘Em | American Debt Project on December 30, 2011 5:13 am

    […] mixed together at breakfast, separated at lunch and dinner) and it’s delicious either way.  Here’s a good recipe to try at […]

  9. Gallo Pinto! I HAVE to make this. I miss Costa Rica (mostly, the food). :) - - Network Panda – cPanel Web hosting, PHP, MySQL, unlimited disk space and bandwidth on March 11, 2012 8:40 am
  10. victor on September 14, 2012 7:15 am

    El gallo pinto es Nicaragüense!!!!!!!!!!! jamas sera un plato típico de costa rica….Esta receta tiene muchos errores………

  11. Janet on September 14, 2012 8:07 am

    We just got back from Costa Rica, where we had a cook to prepare all of our meals except for when we took a day trip to Nicaragua. The food was fabulous!

    The morning of the Nicaragua trip, we had breakfast at one of those little roadside restaurants that seem to pop up every few miles in Costa Rica. There, we had gallo pinto and eggs for breakfast. The gallo pinto was fantastic, and since my kids love anything having to do with beans, I wanted to find a recipe I could make at home. So thanks for the above…I will be trying it very soon!

  12. Tim on October 8, 2012 6:55 am

    From Tim: Victor is stating:

    1. That Gallo Pinto is a dish from Nicaragua and that it never was Costa Rican in origin. Many Nicaraguans believe this as do the Colombians and a few other countries in Central/South America.

    Costa Ricans believe they have the “rights”. All is nonsense of course as Gallo Pinto has been around for at least 100 years and likely much more and certainly in many forms. I have had GP in Nicaragua and it is good! Different though as the one I tasted did not use Salsa Lazano which Costa Ricans would view as blasphemy.

    2. He goes on to state this recipe contains many errors. That is silly as that recipe is 100% correct. It came from my daughter-in-law who got it from her mother, grandmother, etc

    There are dozens if not hundreds of recipes and most are tasty!

  13. Kristen on November 19, 2012 12:22 am

    Or more easy, just look at it and try an eyeball the portions

    Chopped onion
    Instant white rice
    Canned Black Beans
    Salt and Pepper
    ***SALSA LIZANO***

    Wham Bam and DONE in 10/15 mins!
    My boyfriend is Costa Rican, gave me all the cheat sheets!!

  14. Haley on December 15, 2012 8:03 pm

    Hi i am making this dish for a project in my spanish class and i was wondering what exactly do you mean by “seasoning?” Thanks!

  15. Gallo Pinto » Make Something Daily on February 1, 2014 11:52 pm

    […] . Okay, so I set out to make Gallo Pinto tonight. I looked up recipes here, here and here, and armed with 3 very similar recipes set to cooking. Of course, right off the bat […]

  16. Melissa on February 22, 2014 12:24 pm

    I saw miles and miles of grazing land in Costa Rica, mostly populated with Brahmin-type (or Transvaal) cattle. I was impressed by the quality of the beef (loved the Lomito!) and the condition of the livestock I could see. Much of the Grass (but I don’t think all) is Bermuda-type, which might give the beef a bit different flavor from US grass fed/or corn fed beef.
    I fell in love with Lizano sauce and will be keeping it in my kitchen from now on!

  17. Amanda Darner on May 15, 2018 8:14 pm

    Yo hecho esto receta por mi clase de español. Mi compañero de clase apreciado el comer y me gusta el sabors. ¡Gracias por tu receta!

  18. Tim on May 17, 2018 10:24 am

    Con mucho gusto

  19. Tim on May 17, 2018 10:26 am

    Espero que tenias ***SALSA LIZANO***.